Church-Media-Politicos Troika and Leadership Intrigues in Kenya

Published on 28th May 2012

Politicians Uhuru and Ruto are anointed in a religeous rally. Photo courtesy

Ordinarily, the Church is supposed to be the conscience of the nation; the media, the champion of truth; and the political class, the vanguard of the country’s stability and cohesion. This is hardly the case in Kenya today.

Barely a year to the general elections under the new constitution, there is a frenetic activity in the political arena, alignments, and lobbying certainly in a conspiracy among the clergy, the media, and the political class to decide who the fourth president of Kenya shall be. The conspiracy might not on the surface bear any semblance of coherence or homogeneity, but if one scoured beneath the statements coming from some Churches and especially the Anglican Church in Kenya, the media and the political class-both current and past, you come to a realization that the die is cast on which side these groups will cast their votes come March, 2013.

There is a reason to believe that Raila Amolo Odinga is the presumed anointed leader by this class, which fears to gamble with a new face that they do not know and whom they fear would side with the masses. Reverend Eliud Wabukala banned the use of the pulpit by the “Ocampo Four Suspects” for prayers, but in real sense it was political as usual. Few read the statement critically but if looked at with hindsight, What the good Archbishop fell short of saying was that the Church won’t support any of the four, and instead, their candidate is known, and is one of them and that is Raila Odinga.

Bishop Eliud Wabukala comes from Western Kenya. The stronghold for Raila’s ODM party, his church is an influential body in Kenya and its role in struggle for second liberation is well preserved in the annals of history. Throughout the 90s, the All Saints Cathedral near the Nairobi CBD was the haven of political activists who under the Young Turks provided the fiercest opposition to the then President Daniel Arap Moi’s autocratic rule.

It is not once that blood spilled on the pulpit of the Cathedral when the brutal Moi Police clobbered people inside the church. Moreover, it has over 3 million adherents in Kenya including the very powerful individuals in the land such as the former powerful Attorney general, Charles Njonjo. The latter belongs to the inner sanctums of the church and is one of the most respected members of the laity.

It has also a rich history, and has produced gallant members of the clergy in recent years such as Bishop Gitari, Archbishop Manasseh Kuria, Muge and others. So, its word is held as gospel truth by majority of Kenyans. Any agenda pushed by such an influential church given its powerful members is bound to carry the day.

The media is also yet again in the grand conspiracy. Already, some media houses have aligned themselves with their preferred leader whom they intend to push through to the people until he takes the presidency. The headlines in some dailies and on some FM radios and TVs do not hide anything as to whom they are supporting. The problem is compounded by the fact that unlike in other countries, the Kenyan media house is the most ethnicized.

At the height of violence in the aftermath of the bungled 2007 polls, one editor confided in me how they would ordinarily leave the media house in the evening having designed the newspaper and settled on the next day’s headline and lead story, only for the second editor, who apparently came from a certain region from one of the presidential front-runners, to change it, giving a spin intended to paint ‘their man’ a saint in the whole matter and the other the aggressor.

In other media houses, reports of intense tribal hate would come fast and furious, itself a pointer of how partisan and the Tower of Babel-like, and the institution called the Kenyan media is. Not to forget too is the fact that even the Pollsters belong in the media fold. These consistently give conflicting messages on presidential contenders, yet are all unanimous on who is in the lead. The situation even gets worse when one realizes that a number of the media houses are now owned by politicians who themselves are angling for positions of power.

Can the media that abetted and supported crooks during the last general elections be trusted this time round? Yet, like the Church and in concert with it, it is yet emerging as a senior player in the whole chicanery of imposing on hapless Kenyans the fourth president. The way the news is daily slanted and given spin on various presidential contenders only proves the sad hypothesis.

The political class in Kenya is like none else in the world. The old, the not so old and the current have an uncanny way of connecting and aligning on one side pitting them against the ordinary citizens for convenience. This is regardless of whether they belong to different ethnic groups. In the face of common class interest, the ethnic differences pale giving way to alliance making. One needs to look back and see the team that took over power from Narc in 2003.

The Narc Cast was a mix of old politicians, new faces and former oppositionists, and from different tribes. Talk of old wineskins and new wine.

Knowing that their privileges would be threatened if they helped elect a radical leftist in power, they are creating every hurdle for newer but promising presidential contenders. This is through either trying to amend the constitution or passing some laws that can guarantee them a carte blanche regardless of whoever takes over power next year.

That is the reason why some analysts strongly believe even the hawk-eyed PNU power men would be comfortable with a Raila win than probably a Karua, Musyimi or Peter Kenneth’s win, the three of whom are seen as outsiders and pretenders to the throne. The political class values conservativeness and commitment to old ways and thus, having dined and wined with Raila, they know he is just like them and not an ‘outsider’ as they would consider, say Ole Kiyiapi or Rev. Mutava Musyimi. But as experience has shown, that citizens trust the three arms, only time can tell whether this time round they will rediscover their conscience and vote in a leader out of volition not at gun point.

By Anthony Ngatia.

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